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Fox News' Cashin' In Panel: Let Americans Get Sick!

Reported by Ellen - May 4, 2009 -

On Saturday's Cashin' In, the lead-off discussion attacked President Obama and his health care reform (before he's even finished putting forth a policy) via the Orwellian means of accusing the Obama administration of trying to use the swine flu epidemic to promote Obama's agenda. It's a typical Fox News tactic: Rather than hold a serious debate about the economics of health care in our country, they framed the issue in such a way that the nearly all anti-Obama panel could trash his not-yet-existing plan without really discussing it. Democratic guest Julian Epstein did a fine job of exposing the BS; when he demanded the names of any Obama administration official who was using the swine flu for political purposes, nobody could provide even a single name. Throughout the segment, Epstein's opponents (virtually everyone else on the panel) seemed to think that the state of health care in this country is just fine and that since anyone can go to an emergency room for treatment, there's no health care problem. With video.

Jonathan Hoenig opined that government should “take steps” to control contagious outbreaks like the swine flu but people should not assume that means they have a right to all kinds of health care. “That's different than the belief that you have a right to be cured, you know, of any illness you get no matter how much it costs, no matter how irresponsible you've been with your own health, all paid for by society.” While Hoenig acknowledged that swine flu was a national health emergency, he continued in a dismissive tone, “This one's insulin, this one's kidney is not. And it's just a shame that (swine flu's) being used to further that agenda.”

Epstein, a Democratic strategist, replied "The issue on national health insurance, which has nothing to do with (swine flu), is how to fix a broken health insurance system that wastes 25 cents on the dollar, that is suffocating small businesses, and that leaves 1 in 5 Americans out in the cold. These two things have nothing to do with one another." He added that national health insurance opponents are making a straw man argument.

So there was an opportunity to talk dollars and cents about health care but Fox Business Network's Tracy Byrnes made sure that did not happen. She brought the discussion right back to (trashing) Obama: "The administration is being opportunistic at this point... using (swine flu) as a little prop to push the agenda a little bit further."

Epstein interrupted. "Who said that? Who said that?... Name one official that said that in the administration?”

Byrnes said with annoyance, “Oh, Julian.” But she never offered up a single name of anyone in the Obama administration to back up her' accusation.

Host Terry Keenan jumped in and said, “Julian has a point.” Then she quickly accused “the pro health care agenda people, the lobbyists” of “making a connection.” Like Byrnes, Keenan never named names.

“No,” Epstein insisted. “These are totally unrelated issues.”

Panelist Jonas Max Ferris didn't think the Obama administration was putting the two together but, Ferris said, trips to emergency rooms have gone up because of the media scare and because people without health care go to emergency rooms. “Now, does that mean the government should pick up all the bills here? You know, this (swine flu) is not a very dangerous thing yet and frankly, there's more ways people die that are very casual.”

Panelist Jonathan Bradshaw Layfield also accused the Obama administration of using the flu outbreak to pimp health care reform. But instead of providing any names, Layfield pointed to Vice President Biden's comments warning about riding the subway as “proof.” Layfield also just happened to mention that he has season's tickets for the Mets. I wonder how much he really knows about the problems working class people face getting health insurance. “You've had 12 people die, period!” Layfield said (Think he'd be so cavalier if one of those 12 people were his wife?). “36,000 died last year from the flu, the regular flu.”

So let's try to follow that reasoning. Because 36,000 people died of the flu last year and “only” 12 people died of swine flu, that proves there should not be any kind of national health insurance? By that logic, 9/11 should not have been such a big deal either.

After Keenan pointed out that there is still a potential of a pandemic, Hoenig said that's why he's so glad we have a private system to manufacture the remedies. Hoenig asked, "Can you imagine how terrible our health care would be if we got a nationalist health care plan after, like, the bubonic plague? I mean, we would be, like, sucking on wounds and pouring alcohol on wounds to clean them. It would be disastrous."

I hate to burst Hoenig's balloon but Americans without health insurance in this country are already resorting to pulling out their teeth with pliers, treating broken bones with an ace bandage (instead of having an operation) and the like.

Epstein replied that Hoenig's words were an example of “how the health insurance industry apologists try to confuse this issue. Nobody is talking about a national health care system." (I think he meant nobody is talking about a nationalized health care system.) Epstein rightly pointed out that the Obama administration and Democrats are talking about reforming a health insurance system.”

Hoenig asked accusingly, “Does the president believe that everyone has a right to health care, yes or no?”

When Epstein said Obama does, Hoenig responded, “That is a national health care program.”

Epstein got the last word. He noted there's a big difference between health care delivery and health care insurance. “Apologists for the insurance industry like yourself like to confuse those people because they like to scare the public when we talk about reforming health insurance, it doesn't mean socializing or nationalizing health insurance.” Indeed Obama is quite clear when he says (see p. 2) that if you like your health insurance, you can keep it.

Actually, panelist Wayne Rogers got the last word before the segment closed. He agreed that swine flu has nothing to do with health care reform. But he and Keenan also agreed that anyone can get treatment, “even if you're an illegal immigrant” for free at an emergency room. “It's the cost of this,” he said, as the segment ended, presumably meaning that the government shouldn't spend too much on either the swine flu or health care reform.

Funny how Keenan never got around to mentioning that the increasing reliance of the uninsured on the emergency department has serious economic implications, since the cost of treating patients is higher in the emergency department than in other outpatient clinics and medical practices, nor these sobering statistics about how much we're (over)spending on health care, as per the White House:

Rapidly escalating health care costs are crushing family, business, and government budgets. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have doubled in the last 9 years, a rate 6 times faster than cumulative wage increases... The United States spent approximately $2.2 trillion on health care in 2007, or $7,421 per person – nearly twice the average of other developed nations. Americans spend more on health care than on housing or food. If rapid health cost growth persists, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2025, one out of every four dollars in our national economy will be tied up in the health system. This growing burden will limit other investments and priorities that are needed to grow our economy. Rising health care costs also affect our economic competitiveness in the global economy, as American companies compete against companies in other countries that have dramatically lower health care costs
.

News Hounds contributor Brian co-authored this post.